Noisy, derivative and thoroughly preposterous even by the standards of 21st-century action movies, this sci-fi tinged thriller pits a pair of ordinary folks against a disembodied voice that orders them to do very bad things.
Tired of competing with his brilliant twin brother, Ethan, Jerry Shaw (Shia LaBeouf) opts out of the race, dropping out of Stamford to take a series of dead-end jobs and bum around the world. He's working at a Chicago copy shop when he's abruptly called home for Ethan's funeral. After the inevitable run in with his dad, who clearly thinks the wrong son was run down by a truck, Ethan returns home to find his bank account crammed with cash, his apartment piled high with military gear and a strange woman on his cell phone, telling him to do as he's told or he'll be arrested as a terrorist. Jerry is still waffling when the FBI's counter-terrorist unit kicks in his door . While Jerry is being sweated by Agent Thomas Morgan (Billy Bob Thornton), Rachel Holloman (Michelle Monaghan) is spending a night on the town with her girlfriends. A single mother, Rachel has just put her eight-year-old, Sam (Cameron Boyce), on a train to Washington DC, where his school band is going to play at the Kennedy Center, and is enjoying her first break in ages. She too gets a call from the same female stranger, telling her that if she fails to follow directions, Sam will die. The stranger engineers Jerry's escape and throws him together with Rachel, now driving a spiffy Porsche Cayenne, and the race is on. Can Rachel and Jerry figure out who's pulling their strings and what they're being manipulated into doing before Morgan catches up to them?
A string of elaborate and utterly unbelievable stunts sequences wrapped around a tangle of timely concerns – the roots of terrorism, the price of big-brother surveillance, the pitfalls of super-technologies and the question of who should decide where a nation's best interests lie – this big-budget thriller's tenuous claim to torn-from-today's headlines believability hinges on whether you buy the identity of the mysterious caller, which is revealed halfway through the film. Suffice it to say that the Forbin Project got there first, and more convincingly. leave a comment --Maitland McDonagh